Yelp’s New Vegetarian Search Feature

Vegansaurus’s review of the new “Liked by Vegetarians” feature on Yelp reminded me that I’ve been meaning to check that out myself. I actually spend a lot of time looking for new restaurants to try, and searching Yelp for “vegan brunch,” “vegan waffles,” and “best salsa ever” is pretty much a hobby. So I was excited to try out this new feature.

The problem with just searching for “vegan restaurant” or whatever, is that you come across a lot of unhelpful comments such as “this is everyone’s favorite barbecue, unless you’re vegetarian!” or “vegans won’t find anything here, but more beef for me!!1!” The comments are usually more obnoxious and less intelligent than that, but I don’t do a good yelp impression. (Lazy Smurf has it down pat, though!)

The idea behind this new search feature is that it supposedly filters out these less than helpful reviews. Vegansaurus wasn’t too happy with the results, but I think they’re pretty spot on for Austin. The top results for “restaurant” were all places I frequent or at least appreciate as having good options. Matter of fact, my favorite Titaya’s is the first on the list.

For whatever reason, entirely vegetarian or vegan restaurants tended to be at the end of the list. Maybe people don’t mention that their meals at these restaurants are vegetarian in their reviews since that’s stating the obvious? And impressively, I actually found a food cart that I either hadn’t heard of or had forgotten about that I need to try now. (The Jalopy. They make their own vegan bread!) And at the very least, most of the places listed have decent vegan options even though Yelp isn’t distinguishing between vegan and vegetarian.

The downside is all due to lack of enough user generated content. “Restaurant,” “brunch,” and “taco”¬†all brought up great results. But I couldn’t find anything for “fancy” (or “upscale,” “high-end,” or “celebration”), and “food cart” bizarrely brought up only 8 places and didn’t include Conscious Cravings or Vegan Yacht. And beyond that, no other city in Texas has enough results to bring up options for even the really broad search term “restaurant”.

I think overall it’s a pretty useful tool, especially for new or visiting vegans and vegetarians. It could be even more useful if we make an effort to populate Yelp with more data about vegetarian options at restaurants. I know I’ve been meaning to leave a glowing review for the veggie chorizo at Elsi’s.

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